If you are a longtime homeowner and thinking ahead to your next stage of life, you're probably familiar with the idea of aging in place. You might already be considering renovation projects, such as installing grab bars in your bathroom or widening your doorways, to help you stay put. You're not alone in your pursuit: About 76% of Americans age 50 and older say they want to stay in their homes, and 77% hope to remain in their neighborhoods as long as possible, recent AARP research shows.
But renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it's typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn't mean it's a slam dunk to stay put. You'll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care--for your home, and for yourself, as you age and face health challenges.
And be aware that strengthening your social fabric now might be just as important as shoring up your finances and installing a curbless shower. Building a network of support among friends and neighbors, and establishing strong ties in your community, from volunteering to just enjoying casual conversations at the local coffee shop, play important roles in keeping older adults healthy and functioning, experts say. You won't age in place well if you're isolated and alone, a reality you don't want to overlook as you consider your housing and financial options.
"The social connections you have and the access to services in your community are often more important than anything else," says Jessica Finlay, a University of Michigan researcher who studies older adults and their neighborhoods (learn more about her research at jessicafinlay.com). "You need a reason to get out of bed in the morning and to get out the front door."
Aging in place also can be more challenging than you might expect. While most seniors say they want to age in place, a much smaller percentage of them actually manage to accomplish it, studies show. Transportation is often a problem; when you can no longer drive, you can't get to medical appointments or to other outings. Long-term-care costs, even when you stay at home, outpace savings. Older homes can be costly to maintain and downsizing to a